Friday, March 27, 2015

California's Imperial Olive Paradise

Olives are a crop maybe not too many people think about.  Until you need some that is.  I had never seen an olive grove myself, but had the opportunity last week while I was in California.  More olives are being planted around the country, but the Imperial Valley of California provides near ideal growing conditions for them.  I reported on a previous visit to the Imperial Valley in February of 2014 where we had a sugarbeet test.  (Sadly, testing this year was postponed due to personnel changes in the company, but we will be back next time.  Especially since the AgroLiquid treatment was the highest yielding and highest income producer.  Read about it in the research report.)  But we met with a large olive grower who agreed to some product testing.  Here is the stage of the olives last week.  Just past flowering, you can see the future olives.
 How do they harvest all of those little olives.  Well here is a harvester that is specifically for olives. The hedge passes through this machine and those bars shake them off.  I guess that is why James Bond always orders his martini "Shaken, not stirred."  I don't know how you would stir them off.
Here the grower on the right, his agronomist Rocky, our agronomist JW and consulting agronomist Dr. Art Dawson.  We were deep in agronomists. We are discussing applications and plans.
So you can tell from the harvester that pruning is necessary to enable them to fit.  Here is a row that has not been pruned for several years.
Pruning helps promote more stem growth which enables better plant growth and yield.  Here is a stem that was pruned last year and you can see the promotion of stem growth around the cut.
I wasn't around the next couple of days when they were pruned.  Dr. Art sent me these pictures.  Now that is one vicious machine.  The arms rotate as it moves down the row pruning the sides of the adjacent rows.
Here is an "after" picture.  Nice and tidy.  Now give them sunshine, fertilizer and time to grow.
Within a day of pruning, some rows were sprayed with AgroLiquid's growth enhancer Fase2.  This will be monitored for several years to measure effects vs unsprayed.  But if it's like apples, cherries and other tree crops, expect an extra load of olives in the future.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Belize? Believe It!

(So I remembered that I forgot to post this already.)  But do you remember Kalvin, the MSU student intern who worked at the NCRS last summer?  Of course you do.  Well he spent part of his Christmas break on an international school trip to Belize.  Everyone knows Belize is that small Central American country on the East coast by the Caribbean Sea.  English is one of the official languages there which made it easier for Kalvin and the others to order lunch.  But look what they found one day.  It seems like you can't go anywhere these days without coming across an AgroLiquid fertilizer dealer.  Here he is by the sign for Thiessen Liquid Fertilizer.  
It was around ten years ago that brothers John and David Thiessen started promoting Liquid nutrition in Belize.  They have since grown the business and farmers there use it on citrus, rice, corn, bananas, papaya, milo, potatoes, sugarcane, vegetables.....and probably anything else that is green and grows, right?  (In fact, John and David have been to the NCRS many times.) It is a Caribbean paradise and the Liquid truck drivers all fight to make those deliveries.  So if you find yourself in Belize and need to give your arugula a boost, do like Kalvin and stop by Thiessen Liquid Fertilizer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hello World

So I was busy last week.  Remember last May when my daughter Elyse got married?  It was posted here in the blog, since she worked briefly, well very briefly, at the NCRS back in high school.  Well she and her husband were anxious to start a family.  So they did, and look what happened!  Suddenly they are parents...and me, a grandfather.  So both grandparents and aunt (Dana from Montana, who worked three summers at the NCRS) went out to San Diego to make a family visit.  Very cute kid here. And his name is Logan.  He has more hair than gramps.
So it was a nice visit, and also nice to get away from the cold and snow in Michigan.  We took him on a few fun outings.  San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities to visit, but tough to get used to all of the traffic congestion. And once you get somewhere, good luck on finding a place to park.  But it was all worth it of course.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Drop What You're Doing and Register...Now!

So do you know about this?  AgroLiquid agronomist and prominent Texas Aggie Reid Abbott is sharing his knowledge on crop establishment in an upcoming webinar on Thursday March 12 at 11 am EDT.  This is his national debut, so you don't want to miss it.  Plus he says he will be sharing NCRS research.  So it's got to be good.  Unfortunately, I don't know how to transfer the links on the info piece below.  But if you want to register (and who doesn't?), then click the link I've inserted here:
Register for the webinar here: 

New Pancakes and Personnel

So of course we at the NCRS celebrated National Pancake Day.  Unfortunately the parade in town was called off due to snow.  But good ol' Tim volunteered to not only cook our pancake (and sausage) breakfast, but also to serve it.  Like below as he loads up Mitch with a fresh batch. Now that is the way to start a day.  I think there should be a pancake day every month.  Are you with me?
 I also want to take this opportunity to introduce two new employees in Agronomic Sciences (which we researchers and agronomists are part of.)  On the left is Jay Eccelton who began he job as the NCRS Department Manger in mid-January.  It was decided that with all of the different activities going on at the NCRS, like research, non-research crop production, building projects, grounds and building maintenance, tours and lots of other things, that we needed someone at the top of the food chain to keep things running smoothly.  In other words, be the go-to guy to direct traffic.  Jay comes to the NCRS after a long career in golf course management, namely the Emerald Golf Course here in St. Johns.  It is a premier destination course here in mid-Michigan due to Jay's years of management and good ideas.  It was a hard decision for him, but he was ready for a new endeavor and this is good news for both him and AgroLiquid.  Plus he joins the six other MSU alumni here at the NCRS, having a degree in Crop and Soil Sciences. (And notice that Jay leads by example wearing eye protection in the shop.)

On the right is new Field Agronomy Manager Dan Peterson who just started this week and is in town for orientation.  He comes from Eastern Wisconsin and has a very solid ag background that will make him a valuable agronomist for his region which will be the Western Upper Midwest and Northern Plains states. But he will also assist where needed.  Dan has worked in farming, ag retail, livestock management, a long time as a crop consultant and as an agronomist for a fertilizer company.  He has an ag degree from Illinois State University.  With Dan, there are now five Field Agronomy Managers at your service.
Welcome Jay and Dan to the AgroLiquid family.  Now get busy!  There's lots to do with the growing season getting closer every day up here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

AgroLiquid Gives St. Louis the Business

So last week AgroLiquid descended on that great American city on the Mississippi: St. Louis.  It was a meeting of Sales Account Managers, Regional Sales Managers, our CEO and a few other St. Johns folks, including me.  It was a different type of meeting in that we wanted to meet with some other businesses and learn how they market themselves.  One of these was the St. Louis Cardinals.  Now that was pretty ambitious.  We met in Busch Stadium in one of the fancy suites and had a great lunch.  This was our view.
 And if you want to find out about a company's business, who better to talk to than the president?  So we did.  Here is Cardinals president, and one of the owners, Mr. Bill Dewitt III.  He gave a really nice presentation.  The Cardinals are certainly one of the most successful baseball teams there is.  They have been constant winners, having won 11 World Series, the first in 1926 and the most recent in 2011.  He said that they strive for consistent quality rather than ramping up for a year or two and then going backwards for a few years.  That is what the public expects.  Sounds like AgroLiquid and the Cardinals agree there.
 Here is the obligatory group picture.  He indicated that St. Louis is considered a small market, and I guess they are.  But the Cardinals are anything but small market when it comes to the team's image.  In fact, last year they drew over 3.5 million fans to home games, which was second overall in the Major Leagues.  (Only the Dodgers drew more, but the Cardinals out-drew the Yankees.)  So it is a well run operation and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Who would have thought we could get someone like that to talk to us?  We have arrived!  I think.
 Well there was the usual Liquid business discussions.  It was a meeting after all.  But it was a good view too.
Later we got a tour of the stadium which included going out to the Cardinals dugout.  That wasn't a white tarp, that is snow.  It was cold and the shaded areas had snow.  (Brian W confided that he spit some tobacco juice on the field like a pro ballplayer.  Cross that off your list Brian.)  But it was cool.  I never imagined visiting a major league dugout.
 Then we had dinner at a place next to the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  Of course they had plenty of tributes to their most famous and popular player.
 Here is the World Series room with uniforms and pics from all eleven of them.
 As in business, Troy prepares to hit one out of the park.  And he is helped by an actual Stan Musial bat.  
 And at dinner, Troy summarized where we were and what needs to be done going into the 2015 growing season.  We all left motivated.
What is anther big business in St. Louis?  (Well besides that one.)  Earlier in the day we had the opportunity to tour the Monsanto Chesterfield research facility.  Monsanto was the pioneer in agricultural biotechnology, and they built this facility back in 1984 just for this purpose.  They are making a significant expansion here, so they are looking at the future.  I was here last October for a tour...still impressive. 
Well they wouldn't let me take pictures of things like the growth chambers, the DNA sequencer and the like.  But I did get this pic of a GMO demonstration of Bt soybeans and regular soybeans showing the effects of two weeks of soybean looper infection.  Get out the insecticide...on the non-GMO that is.
 Our business experience was presented by Monsanto's Director of Industry Affairs.  He represents Monsanto in dealings with grower organizations like National Corn Growers and others, as well as representing Monsanto in regulatory issues and GMO topics with the public.  He explained Monsanto's strategy for dealing with the GMO's and the public.  Seeing as he and I were graduate students together at Oklahoma State many years ago, of course there was old picture sharing. The three of us in that pic there were good friends back then and shared a birthday month, as well as all worked later for Monsanto.  That pic is 35 years old...those were the days. Well I changed jobs, but he stuck around and gave a very informative presentation.  
I saw this display of different products in their line-up.  I remember putting out Lasso plots with my old tractor plot sprayer.  I wish I had a cologne of that smell.  I enjoy working with another equally famous purple product now...Sure-K.
So that was a good day.  So often we are too focused on our business, that it is good to get an outside look at how other businesses operate and see what you can learn.  And I'm glad I got to go.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Down in Monterey...

So I'm sure everyone remembers that song, but this was my first trip there to Monterey, California.  As the entertainment part of the Western Summit conference, we visited the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium on Tuesday evening.
Here we gather in the lobby.  We had the place to ourselves...well except for the fish I mean.  We had a "strolling dinner" which was perfect for visiting and looking at all of the exhibits.
Here is probably the center attraction: The Kelp Forest.  It has kelp of course, but also a myriad of ocean fish.  The orange and black (nice colors) fish in the first picture, a Pacific Sheephead for those keeping track, was in the "forest."  The structure is around 30 feet tall and contains 325,000 gallons of water.  The kelp grows four inches a day.   Do you see that silvery mass of smaller fish in the center?  Those are anchovies and they never stop their coordinated movement through the water.
Well here is a round aquarium full of anchovies, and they too never stopped swimming. Tonight they were all going counter-clockwise.  If one just happened to turn a little and try the other way, the others quickly got him (or most likely her) going back the right way.  They say there is food in there as they keep trolling with their big mouths open.  Very interesting display.  I wonder if they ever stop to rest.  Glad I'm not an anchovy, for a lot of reasons.
Probably everyone has seen a live or picture of an octopus.  But I had never seen a big one like this stuck to the glass.  I would not one wrapped around my leg, for sure.
Here is Dale trying to feed one of the fish.  Fortunately it was some meatballs and not fish.  That would be so wrong.
I had read the book Cannery Row by John Steinbeck many years ago.  But I had forgotten that it took place here in Monterey.  The canning industry was huge here in the early 1900's, peaking during World War I where canned sardines were a staple sent to troops in Europe.   As shown in this part of the museum, it was grueling work for the mostly female work force.  Long hours on your feet cutting and packing cold smelly fish...it was a different time.  Here Troy goes back in time to live in the factory...for a second.  Due to over fishing, the once thriving packing industry had largely collapsed there by the 1950's.  But it is still a popular tourist attraction of restaurants and shops on the wharf.  
At one point during the evening, our CEO Troy addressed the group in front of the Kelp Forest.  He talked about some of the history of AgroLiquid and how we came to be today, and the plans for the future as a family owned business.  Not unlike many of the businesses of our retail partners here. These are challenging times, primarily due to the persistent drought.  But we will work together to keep the crops fed so that the people can be fed.
Then it was back to looking around at the many exhibits.  They are so cleans and pretty to see.
That's a Lionfish swimming on the right.
And these are eels sticking their heads out of those holes in the rock.
Those little orange and white fish are Clownfish.
They had a shallow pool of Batfish, which are a type of ray.  They let visitors feed them small chunks of fish at feeding time.  Well who wouldn't want to do that?  They are harmless after all....
Hey!!!  Give me back my fingers!!!   I thought they were harmless!!!  (Relax readers, I'm just being a Clownfish myself.)
I think that maybe I'm dreamin'.